If you kind of clench the back of your throat and blow air out slow, almost growling, you can imitate this sound. If you can snip your tongue to the edge of your gums and lips, you can crackle just as the fire did. Rumble, down in your stomach. Without much effort, you can imagine what we were doing here. Smiling. Pat on the backing. Happily projecting.
Like everybody does.
We have a language full of dirty words like a tool box. Screwdriver. Phillip’s head. Good for you Phillip. Nails. Screws. Socket. Stud-finder. Okay. Daddy doesn’t want help with his tools anymore.
Let me do this for you. I’m not a plumber, or an electrician, or a roofer, or a carpenter.
I’m a writer.
Let me set you straight. If you’re reading this, you’re currently caught up in a process we call life. No matter what you have been told, there is no assurance you will ever have another one. You’re not alive on accident, and you’re not alive without stipulation. You, or someone close to you, has been doing a lot of work to maintain you in this state. Alive. For just the one time.
You’re saying things you heard on TV. We know. We heard it too. You’re saying them to people who are speaking about things they did not see on TV, things they lived through, decisions they have made.
Flat winds rattle doors and whistle hum outside the window. In fact, about ten or so windows. These Carolina room layouts. Traced along ridge lines just across the river. Bought for the view. Built for it too. The grass crunched like summertime this afternoon. The air only cooled around four o’clock and even then, not much. High of seventy five. What a time to be alive.
There are not enough words to describe the universe.
There aren’t even enough to describe us.
I want to be a writer.
And I am telling you to be wary of words.
Not of any one in particular.
But just feeling like there are already enough.
And that if words fail to describe something, it isn’t in existence.
Which is an irrational and divisive and intentionally manipulative position.
This whole mess is clay, right up until we cook it.
And it will become anything we make. So long as we keep cooking.
It has been raining for just about a billion years. But dirt still behaves as if it never saw it coming. Now that is love. Or at the very least. That’s something. Mud sliding down mountainsides and rocks choking valleys and water swallowing high school gymnasiums.
How has it all not settled down by now?
After all of this time, how is the definition of simple
Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.
The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.
Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.
Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.
If it waited for your sight, if you had to use your eyes, it wasn’t love, at least not at first.
There is no such thing as puppy love. There are no lovebirds.
Let’s say something poetically asinine, like love is a flower. I ask, what is a flower?
Do roses not have thorns? Do plants not feed on decay? Are there not many completely crucial elements required for flowers that you would not call beautiful, that you would not recognize, or think of as desirable?
Love. My mother has it. But not all mothers. Love. The same farm that produces milk also creates a lot of filth. And who wants that? Who wants to know the true, putrid cost of all the things we really like a lot? I can tell this with confidence, there aren’t many of us.
It is not love if you refuse to recognize the cost. I love my child, but he will not remain a child. He is not just his wonderfully sly side smile. There are smells that come out of him that would earn the respect of a skunk. I love him, as a child, all the while, I dream of the man he will be. A man who, by all means, may not want to be like me.
Love is different from comfort, or happiness, or joy, or appreciation. Love has a dishrag in its hand already, ready to clean up after all those things.
Do you understand what I’m trying to say? Is it clear just how rare true love really is?
It is hard work.
How many people have you met who say they love hard work?
That is how many people you have met who have loved.
How we order dinner. How we tell our problems to doctors. And illustrate our final wishes. And record our innermost anxieties. We write letters to loved ones full with so many words claimed by neverending definition. How we know to call each other. How we declare things like war, and love, and all the salty sandwich meat in between. Looking at the world through eyes is one thing. But words, vastly another.
Literature is the microscope we hold up against the world to perceive details needed to articulate our needs. A microscope provides a distortion. A biased perspective. In your favor. Objects appear larger than they actually are.
If you fail to study the manipulations of your tools, you will never build a trustworthy conclusion.
And language, literature, we use words to orchestrate lives how bees use wax to shape hives. Not so much high art and the great smoking literary canon, but traffic signs, and menus, birth certificates and credit card contracts. They never taught this in school, because the system is full of people taught never to question the bias in their equipment. But all words are literature. How you tell your friends how you feel. Express intimacy and desire safely and respectfully out loud. The level of grace with which you handle power. How well you translate to paper.
English is not your least favorite class from high school.
It is the medium I am implementing at this very moment to testament the unfixed, transient flights of conscious thought going on in my mind. It is our cheapest and most prevalent form of time travel. As well as immortality. Playdough for plastic brains to squeeze in fists and get sick eating it. Which we know we aren’t supposed to do. It says so, printed in a dull black warning on a label, the word. No.
We didn’t have to. But words are how we decided to witness to and participate with the world. From the ground up. Whenever I encounter a doubt, or a negative thought about possibility or lack of potential, or hope, I’m always asked to look through a narrow little window of a word that I broke open a long time ago into a door. And more. I built a bridge out of it. And you’re right. That word. That choice. That night. If it is the destination, then this is dark as hell. And your doubts, they may be right. But if that word is one toe on a foot, or one step in a twenty mile day, or one day out of a two month journey, or two months of the best, most fulfilled, busiest and blessed years of my life, that’s different.
Depending on the lens you use, your microscopic problem might only appear to be huge. When in reality, it’s invisible to everyone but you. This is why we discovered language. To catch a glimpse of ourselves in it like a fun-house mirror, distorted into extremes.
It had very little to do with the pursuit of truth. Like any other tool.
Literature was not intended to serve the world.
We designed these words to magnify you.
Change is hard. To me, it seems rooted in unhappiness. The discontent desire to reshape their continents. And happy people draw maps. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Philosophically speaking, it’s a hammer. Or a wrench. If you look at the equipment to get an idea of the ideas they have built, it will always seem too simple. But it’s two different natures. Separate goals and agendas, distinct skeletal structures between the ideals that shape our tools and the things they can build. A hammer moves two ways. Hard and inconsiderate buried into wood, or sharp flat bunny ears that pull shy iron up out of its rabbit hole. If you’re a mover and a shaker, a builder, a creator, a social changer, an adventurer, an artist. You’re probably not the happiest. Dissatisfied. Discontent. You can argue me against it, but I’ll probably disregard all your words and take your passionate need to prove me wrong as its own kind of evidence. Sorry. I stopped stopping at people’s words a long time ago. Around the same time I admitted to myself just how much I will lie to control the idea people have of me. I did this amazing thing. I assumed everyone else was just as smart as me. And doing it as well. So I listen to chest swells, and deep breaths, and that thing where people look down and chuckle a couple times before they talk. Think of all the times you did that yourself. What true answers were you bypassing in those seconds before you landed on the placid, clean, decent one.
So whether you want to admit it or not, you’re not building a new house because you were happy with the one you had. You’re not plowing new fields if your grass was already green enough. Tree roots and boulders buried like land mines. Change is hard work. So are new worlds. America is defined by attracting all of the earth’s least satisfied residents. Argue with me if you want, but people who are truly content, do not get on that boat. They never left Europe. You did not travel then, and you really shouldn’t now, with any reassurance of how soon you’ll be back again. Along with luggage, you are taking your life up into your own hands. Seeking out new lands. Because the one you’re leaving behind did not fill you up. It wasn’t enough. Some of us are hammers. And some of us are nails buried so deep we’ll never be pried up. And a good enlightenededish person will have learned over time to be a bit of both. To seek balance. And let change do what it has always done. This planet is changing all on its own. The revolution, is how to live here and still leave it alone.
It’s an oversimplification, I know. But if hammers and nails were as complicated as houses, I’m not sure we’d ever get one off the ground. If you’re an artist. A revolutionary, which is simple nowadays. The revolutionary is a good mom, and a patient man, an understanding boss, a forgiving friend. If you’re trying. If you have a dream. Or wishes. If other people are small talking and I catch you staring off into the distance. I know you’re like me. You’re a little bit unhappy. Just enough. To know this way of life isn’t enough.
The same hands that put down the new novels and poetry and short-storied scriptures of tomorrow will have cut the boards and set the nails of the new shelves in the libraries that will be needed to hold all of them. A hammer. The pen. The beauty of this rusty little literary invention. Language is like an old house our ancestors built for us. A decrepit mansion we all inherited equally just by being born human. Maybe a room or two have been kept clean and livable by the devoted satin robe wearing monks of academia, but none of us could keep termites out of the joist in the basement. Mold buried deep with moisture in real hard oak. Floor sagging in places and roof given out altogether in others. No one lives here full time anymore. And how we approach this condemned inheritance sort of sets us into two distinct categories of personality.
And I know I don’t need to write it again. But it is the discontent who want to tear it down and start over. Happy people are scrubbing floors and dusting mantles. But the ones who have glimpsed the future walk the halls with hammers. Prying up nails and taking out hardwood and stained glass and musty furniture while we still can. We may yet need them. For the new one.
Some absurdities are witnessed, so twisted, offensive, perverted,
they must be laughed at. If not, if stared at stone face unmoved,
steel, taken serious, you’d turn ill, go mad. So laugh, smile,
express vulnerability in staccato breath chuckles.
Absolve the absurd. To fixate on the word is to live in a title. How idle.
No definition. Argument. Language travels unravels long storied mystery,
romance, and some talk so long about the song they forget to dance along.
Create. Define. It is necessary for there to be words that cause people to cringe. Emboldened, condescending letters indicative of sins. We live everyday. Make decisions. Avoiding feeling fear over words, short bits of code humanity accumulated over time,
able to reach far inside a gut and tear it up. And that is power.
Real, mysterious, legally binding and recordable magic.
And humans own it. It is ours. Offenses rain down in showers.
Baptizing, exercising, digging ditches and gullies
after how much the sacrament has stolen.
But between me and you, these empty spaces
are not to be feared, but filled in.
My life goal is to organize and express an artistic method for pulling words like democracy, equality and art down out of the clouds. Through writing, public speaking and activism, I want to help people learn to distrust the bias of their initial gut conclusions, and seek a word’s truest most quantifiable meaning before using it. I aim to cut the distance that separates words from definitions, and expand the divide between categorizing something and understanding it. We should blame language long before we blame our neighbors, or facts. Before settling on platitudes concerning the spiritual status of the universe, we need to learn more about the tool we’re using to measure it.
Is the poetry to be so simple?
One broken up line of broken cracked prose to impersonate poetry.
Bring up pretty bright color alongside some sad dark one. Poem.
Unexpected detail, a twist, two twists, spaced middle and end. Poem.
A difficult day to explain. A story hard as a rock to tell. Confess.
Confess it all.
Butterfly found dead in the grass.
Hollowed out in body, left connected in the wings, painted still faded color.
Witness. Read a larger work. Not a poem. Every poem. Metapoem.
All art is killed and devoured just being recorded. Drawn.
Passing through a sore hand, the story a dead insect tells Man.
The paintings on the walls of the animals who were dinner.
The clouds. Green ground. And red. Deep red. Blood. Metapoem.
Recording of the first ever muse: guilt.
Poetry to redefine poetry.
The long winded verse of words written into steps on a trail.
Meticulous. Repetitive. Climbing to a climax. To witness life,
poetically, but from sharp, vital perspective. Call it prose.
Falling as sudden as it rose into a deep trough marked resolution.
Every sight and destination along the way. Prose.
The sun setting. Cold nights full with falling stars
and the garbled singing voices of owls. Prose.
Again, as soon as the sun rose, up to clouds and rain and more walking too.
The sole pursuit under every tortured step. Prose.
Please. Do not forget the leaps once taken to cross the hurdle.
The deep creek. The fallen tree. The inherent poetry off blind leaps of faith.
And the daily. The progress. Forward movement climbing and dropping.
The endless purposeful footsteps of prose.
Journeys taken before adventure had a name.
The art we created, carried,
the stories and poems we wrote,
before such words had ever been written.